US ELECTIONS 2020

Why has Texas filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court to help Trump’s results in the election?

The Texas Attorney General asked the US Supreme Court to throw out the results in four swing states so that Trump can be reelected President.

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Why has Texas filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court to help Trump’s results in the election?
Kevin Lamarque REUTERS

In a gambit that legal experts say has no merit and is harmful to Texas and democracy, the state’s Attorney General filed a lawsuit on Tuesday with the Supreme Court to have the election results in four states thrown out. The states in question are Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all of which voted for President-elect Biden.

The long-shot lawsuit is just the latest attempt by Trump supporters to upend the election loss to President-elect Joe Biden. It will be the second case to be considered by the Supreme Court with the previous case denied hearing on Tuesday. It was filed directly with the Supreme Court, bypassing lower courts, as allowed for in certain litigation between states. Officials from the four states called the lawsuit reckless and legal experts say it will have little prospect of succeeding.

What is the Texas Attorney General alleging?

In the lawsuit the Republican Attorney General of Texas Ken Paxton filed he argues that the four states' changes to voting procedures amid the coronavirus pandemic to expand mail-in voting were unlawful. Paxton makes the extraordinary request of the Supreme Court to immediately block the four states from using the election results to appoint presidential electors to the Electoral College. Essentially he wants the court to invalidate the will of the voters in those states.

The Texas state Attorney General wants the court to allow the legislatures in each of the four states to choose the electors that will vote in the Electoral College. The lawsuit comes after the “safe harbor” deadline when the slate of electors that will vote for the winning presidential ticket in each of their respective states has been locked in. Texas is also seeking to have the 14 December date for the Electoral College, when the electors cast their votes, to be delayed by the Supreme Court, a date set by the Electoral Count Act of 1887.

How did it get to the Supreme Court?

Normally the Supreme Court only hears cases that have worked their way up from the lower courts through the appeals process. However in the case of states suing other states the highest court has “original jurisdiction” bypassing the lower courts. The court has made it clear that this should be invoked sparingly.

Trump retweeted several Twitter posts expressing support for the lawsuit calling for other states to join it. The President said before the election he expected the Supreme Court to decide the winner.

The lawsuit is a motion to be able to have the case heard in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court's 6-3 conservative majority includes three justices named by Trump. It generally requires four justices to agree to hear a case. The court told the four states to respond by Thursday afternoon.

On Tuesday in a unanimous decision all nine justices denied an appeal by Pennsylvania Republicans to block the state from formalizing Biden's victory there.

What are the chances of it succeeding?

According to legal experts the case is a mockery of the justice system and a continuation of baseless claims of election fraud that undermines belief in the US democratic system. Paul Smith, a professor and election law expert at Georgetown University's law school, said Texas did not have a legitimate basis for the suit in a statement to Reuters. "There is no possible way that the state of Texas has standing to complain about how other states counted the votes and how they are about to cast their electoral votes," Smith said.

"The erosion of confidence in our democratic system isn't attributable to the good people of Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia or Pennsylvania but rather to partisan officials, like Mr. Paxton, who place loyalty to a person over loyalty to their country," Michigan's Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement.

Why has Attorney General of Texas Ken Paxton filed the lawsuit?

Ken Paxton is currently under criminal investigation by the FBI for alleged efforts to help a wealthy campaign donor. Seven senior lawyers in Paxton’s office claimed to authorities in September that Paxton was guilty of abusing his office. All seven have since been fired, put on leave or resigned, prompting a whistleblower lawsuit from several of them. Paxton has denied wrongdoing.

Paxton has been under indictment since 2015 on securities fraud charges relating to activities prior to taking office which he has pled not guilty. He would be facing 99 years in prison as it would be his second offence. With Trump signaling that he is handing out pardons Rachel Maddow speculated that he is trying to catch the eye of Trump with this lawsuit to help with those legal problems.